SAN FRANCISCO -- On March 30, the Royals kick started their 55th season as a franchise. Up in the radio booth at Kauffman Stadium, Hall of Fame broadcaster Denny Matthews prepared for his 55th Opening Day. He’s seen it all, done it all and brought it all to Royals fans for the last 55 years.
Next to him was his new broadcast partner, Jake Eisenberg, who is in his first season calling Royals games. Eisenberg is 28 years old, Matthews is 80. According to the Royals’ public relations department, the 52-year age gap between the two is the largest between any broadcast team in Major League Baseball.
“But we’re watching the same game,” Eisenberg said. “We’ve just had different experiences and different perspectives about what we see and how we might describe it or what might spark our interest here and there.
“I think it’s cool that we can watch the same game and deliver it together to all generations, whether they’re Denny’s age or my age or somewhere in between.”
The age gap isn’t lost on Matthews, either.
“You’re getting to listeners of all ages,” Matthews said. “They can identify. It’s one of those things that you stop and think about the difference, and it’s really pretty cool.”
So while Matthews brings that old-school radio feel and depth of knowledge to the broadcast, Eisenberg might drop in a few new-age statistics or two, like spin rates and hard-hit rates.
“When we talk about baseball in 2023, those are conversations that are happening in the dugout, in the clubhouse, in the front office,” Eisenberg said. “Our job is to bring those places to the game we’re seeing on the field and to the fans that are watching. They’re really important elements to a modern baseball broadcast.”
Matthews and Eisenberg team up at home in the booth and are joined by Steve Stewart, while Eisenberg and Stewart tag-team road games. In his first week on the job, Eisenberg, who was the voice of Triple-A Omaha the last two years, has soaked in the experiences, from Opening Day to the Royals’ first win to their first road trip.
He’s made an impact on listeners -- and on Matthews.
“He’s very well prepared, very energetic,” Matthews said. “Just kind of living on a cloud right now. He’s engaging. And he listens. That’s important. That’s the first thing I learned, is just to listen to others, like Buddy Blattner (the original play-by-play voice of the Royals and Matthews' first broadcast partner). I think Jake’s years in Omaha truly helped him. I didn’t have any of that; it really was jump in the ocean and swim.”
Matthews remembers his first game on the air quite well. It was April 8, 1969, and the Royals played the Twins at Municipal Stadium in Kansas City. They won on a walk-off in 12 innings.
“I was nervous enough that I wrote down the intro for when I put Buddy on the air,” Matthews said. “So I set the scene, and I wrote down, ‘Hi everybody, this in Denny Matthews at Municipal Stadium.’ I actually wrote down my name so I didn’t forget it.”
Matthews chuckled when he remembered the scene because 55 years later, he could probably call games in his sleep. Eisenberg was similarly nervous during his first game -- but more of an excited nervousness than anything else. He, too, had talking points written down so he wouldn’t forget them.
Broadcasting baseball games is Eisenberg’s dream job, and he’s doing it next to a Hall of Famer. During Opening Day introductions, the totality of it hit Eisenberg.
“It was like, ‘This is real. This is actually happening. And Denny Matthews is right beside me, and the whole team is around me,’” Eisenberg said. “It was pretty incredible. Just realizing that it’s here, we’re here, and we’re doing it.”
Matthews has called so many games that nothing really shakes him anymore. But he could tell how meaningful Opening Day was to Eisenberg and what this season means to the rookie broadcaster.
“He’s fitting in well,” Matthews said. “I try to make him feel as comfortable as I can. You can tell he wants to do well and is real anxious to do well. He’ll relax and let it come to him over time. He’s doing great so far.”